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Munich Re warns of ‘exceptionally active’ hurricane season

1st June 2022 - Author: Pete Carvill

Munich Re is warning that this year’s hurricane season could be ‘exceptionally active’ in a new outlook just posted on its website.

Munich Re logo on a signThe reinsurance giant said that the main phase of the hurricane season, which is due to start in coming weeks, is likely to be characterised by climatic conditions favourable for storm formation over the North Atlantic. The last such string of years, said Munich Re, with these La Niña conditions was in 1998-2000.

As a result, the company said that it expects as many as 18 named cyclones in the tropical North Atlantic during the 2022 season. Of those 18, roughly eight could be hurricanes, including possibly four major hurricanes with wind speeds exceeding 110 mph (177 km/h).

Anja Rädler, a meteorologist and climate researcher at Munich Re, said: “Three consecutive years of ENSO conditions, which favour tropical cyclones, is truly unusual. Needless to say, for insurers it is tremendously important to determine whether this was just a fluke or may become more common in future. In any case, whether and, if so, how climate change affects the ENSO phases like El Niño and La Niña is the subject of intensive research.”

Munich Re pointed to climate change as a factor in its outlooks for hurricanes.

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It said that while climate change does not tend to cause more tropical cyclones, it does cause more frequent severe hurricanes with destructive winds and storms with extremes of rainfall.

In 2021, there were 21 tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic, including seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes rated category 3 to 5. The costliest tropical cyclone of the year was Hurricane Ida, which produced overall losses of $65bn, of which $36bn was insured. The previous year included a record-breaking hurricane season, with no less than 30 storms.

The ENSO conditions are also likely to influence the typhoon season in the Northwest Pacific, albeit with roughly the opposite effect. Consequently, Munich Re anticipates a level of storm activity that is slightly below the long-term average in the Northwest Pacific. From 1965 to 2021, the region was visited by an average of 25.9 tropical cyclones per year, including 16.2 typhoons and 8.8 especially powerful typhoons of categories 3 to 5.

Although Japan is normally home to the highest typhoon-related losses, the firm said it saw a trend towards increasing insured losses in China and India.

Torsten Jeworrek, member of the board of management and CEO of reinsurance at the firm, said: “Given the enormous potential losses, it is essential that we have a precise grasp of hurricane-related risks. Accordingly, our staff includes a range of meteorologists and climate researchers. In this way, we can support our society and economy with insurance covers, even when there are changes in risk, for instance due to climate change.”


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